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Old 01-10-2009, 05:30 PM   #196
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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/ten...pen-title.html

Andy Murray crushes Andy Roddick to defend Qatar Open title

Andy Murray underlined his Australian Open title credentials as he overcame a sore back and American rival Andy Roddick to retain the Qatar Open in style with a 6-3, 6-2 victory in Doha.

By Andy Hooper and agencies
Last Updated: 6:09PM GMT 10 Jan 2009




Flying form: Andy Murray lifts the Qatar title after win over Andy Roddick Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Murray, the world number four and newly-installed Melbourne favourite, had required lengthy physiotherapists's treatment during his semi-final win over Roger Federer yesterday. And it was feared that the stiffness he was suffering in his back would prevent him defending his trophy in Doha.

However, any worries were allayed as Murray motored through the first set, conceding only five points on his service. A single break in the fifth game was all that was required as Roddick struggled to cope with the power and variety of his opponent.

After a momentary interlude for repairs to the net, Murray double-faulted in his opening service game of the second set and appeared briefly to be under threat at 0-30.

However, the 21-year-old Scot remained composed, taking the next four points to hold before moving towards victory with a second break which included an astonishing exchange at the net, won by a Murray forehand volley.

Murray's movement and shot-making continued to confound Roddick as he moved towards a sixth win over the American in their eight meetings.

With his opponent rapidly losing faith, Murray broke again to take a 4-1 lead. Roddick, on the brink of defeat, finally earned a first break point, but was helpless as Murray plundered his fifth ace down the middle.

A backhand winner confirmed Murray's victory after 70 minutes to underline his credentials for a first grand slam title at the Melbourne Park event, which begins on Jan 19.

Murray, who also beat Federer and Rafael Nadal in the 'World Championship' exhibition event in Abu Dhabi last week, told a delighted crowd: "I'd like to thank my team, it was a great year last year and hopefully I will continue the same this year."

Roddick admitted he had been simply "outplayed", adding that Murray's five-strong back-up staff, among them coach Miles MacLagan, were "the hardest working team in tennis".
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Old 01-11-2009, 12:08 AM   #197
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http://sport.scotsman.com/tennis/Ali...-on.4863879.jp

Alix Ramsay: Ace Murray on track for slam

Published Date: 11 January 2009
By ALIX RAMSAY

IT WAS never like this with Tim. As the Australian Open comes into view, there is only one name on everyone's lips and it is Andy Murray. All interested parties, from the greats of the game to the bookies, are tipping the Scot to win his first grand slam title in Melbourne and the talk is not of "if" Murray can win, but "when".

For more than a decade, the patient British public sighed and tut-tutted as Timothy Henry Henman tried and failed to reach a major final. No matter – whenever Wimbledon came around the same old discussions would start again: could this be Henman's year. It was no more than the triumph of hope over experience as Henman was undone in four semi-finals in SW19 and one each at the US and French Opens. But when the same discussions begin about Murray, the answer is always the same: of course he can win and if not in Melbourne then at Wimbledon or in New York.

Murray reinforced the point yesterday by beating Andy Roddick 6-4, 6-2 to retain his Qatar ExxonMobil Open title. It was the third time in his career that he had defended a title and it was his ninth title in all and it left the Scot unbeaten so far this year. And he made it look so easy.

Throughout his week in Qatar, Murray had been troubled by a sore back, a result, he thought, of adapting to the new court surface in the Middle East. In his semi-final, he had needed treatment from the trainer and had warned before yesterday's encounter that any hint of an injury and he would withdraw. But after waking up feeling a little battered and bruised, the Scot soon shook off any stiffness and was moving and playing without a care in the world as he thrashed the hapless Roddick.

It was not as if Roddick was playing badly, either. He has just joined forces with Larry Stefanki and the new coaching arrangement has already added more variation to his game but still it was not enough. Murray took Roddick apart with his backhand; he out-served the man with the biggest serve on the circuit and he bullied and bossed him into submission over the course of 70 minutes.

Only once did Roddick manufacture a break point but by then the match was 68 minutes old and Murray was serving for the match. As the soon-to-be champion whisked the chance away with his fifth ace, Roddick stalked to the other side of the court and gritted his teeth.

"I have to congratulate Andy," Roddick said. "He totally outplayed me tonight. I also want to congratulate his team – they are about the hardest working team out there."

That comment brought the biggest smile to Murray's face. He may win the titles but his support crew do the hard work to make it all possible and he is not only grateful but enormously proud of what he and his team have achieved together. "We had a great year last year," Murray said of his gang's efforts, "and hopefully we can continue it this year." After yesterday's performance, there seems little doubt that Murray will get his wish.

Murray's form so far this year has been remarkable. He barely seems to have broken step since the end of last season and, more importantly, he is picking off all the big names before business begins in earnest in Melbourne. His fourth consecutive victory over Roger Federer on Friday left the Swiss looking perplexed and dejected. It also forced Federer to join the ranks of tipsters backing Murray for success.

"The question is whether he is going to win a grand slam," Federer mused. "Well – yes. He's got a chance."

What Federer did not mention was that if Murray is drawn to play the Swiss in the semi-finals in Australia, he will have more than a chance of winning. Federer had gone to Doha with the intention of proving that he was back to his best. Unlike last year, when he was suffering from glandular fever, he had trained long and hard over the Christmas break and he cruised through the rounds to reach his showdown with Murray. He had a lean and hungry look. Yet after taking the first set on a tie-break, Federer was flattened by Murray and could win only four more games.

Since he beat the Scot in the US Open final, Federer has lost to him three times on the main tour and once in an exhibition match. Now when they meet, the mighty Federer is the underdog and the expectation is that Murray will win. Friday's trouncing installed Murray as the bookies' favourite for the Australian Open title, with Ladbrokes quoting him at 5/2. Even the Australian betting gurus have Murray as the second favourite behind Federer – and they are not known for backing the Poms to win anything.

John Newcombe knows a thing or two about grand slam champions, having won seven of the major titles himself and as he eyes up the talent making its way to Australia, he believes that Murray is the man to beat.

"He got to No.4 in the world, but the way he was playing at the end of the year, you think in 12 months' time he'll be close to No.1," Newcombe said. "How will Nadal's injuries go with his knees? And Djokovic, let's see how he handles the nerves when he's defending his grand slam title.

"And with Roger, I'm sure he's been doing some very serious training and realising he has to come up with something a bit extra, which sounds strange, but he needs to vary his game and come to the net a bit more.

"The way they finished last year, I wouldn't be surprised to see Andy Murray. In my mind, he could be the guy that will step up and win."

The momentum, then, is building for Murray. What truly sets the Scot apart is that with every passing week he looks more comfortable with his role as the man of the moment.

The hype does not appear to affect him at all because he, like the pundits, knows that a grand slam title is well within his capabilities. If it does not happen in Melbourne then it will happen a little further down the road – it is only a matter of time. It was certainly never like this with Tim.


Why Murray is favourite for Aussie Open

ANDY Murray is favourite to win a Grand Slam event for the first time in his career.

William Hill have the Scot at 2/1 to win the Australian Open, while Ladbrokes make him 5/2 while Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are 11/4 and 3/1 respectively with defending champion Novak Djokovic 6/1.

Here's how Murray's stock has risen so dramatically:

IMPROVED SERVICE

Last year, Murray's ground strokes rivalled Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, but his serve was inconsistent and flaky. This year, however, Murray has put more speed, depth and power on his first serve, creating more unreturnables. Murray won 86% of first serve points against Federer on Friday while in yesterday's final, Andy Roddick only got a sight of a break in the last game of the match. Murray's second serve has also improved. In last year's defeat to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Australian Open, Murray won only 47% of second serve points. Against Roddick, he won 60%.

IMPROVED RETURN

Murray's steeliness and will to win has always been apparent. Yet his ability to return a big serve and then sculpt a winning point was one of his failures last year. Now, he can read and break services from Roddick, one of the fastest, Federer, one of the most precise, and Nadal, whose serve contains vast amounts of spin. Roddick only mustered three aces yesterday – he almost always hits double figures.

IMPROVED STAMINA

With the help of his coaching team, the Scot has gained more upper-body strength, while also increasing the power in his legs. He now has the stamina to come back from a set down and is able to hound balls, even in a deciding set – something that will be crucial against the likes of Nadal.

OPPONENTS' DECLINE

Roger Federer's backhand, in particular, has broken down, while his unbeatable aura has disappeared. Nadal's game does not perform best on a hard court and there are fitness doubts, while Djokovic is short of form and confidence after his early round defeat in Brisbane. Others, such as Roddick, Gilles Simon, Tsonga and Juan Martin Del Potro lack the consistency, experience and mettle to win a Slam.
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Old 01-11-2009, 09:08 AM   #198
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Today's article from l'équipe.
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Old 01-20-2009, 09:33 AM   #199
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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/ten...l-retires.html

Andy Murray through to Australian Open second round after Andrei Pavel retires

By Mark Hodgkinson in Melbourne
Last Updated: 8:43AM GMT 20 Jan 2009




Progress: Andy Murray has reached the Australian Open second round Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Murray went through after his opponent, 34-year-old Romanian Pavel, retired in the second set when an old injury to his back flared up once more.

This was Pavel's first competitive tennis for 11 months, as he damaged his back at last February's tournament in Marseille and had not played between then and this grand slam event.

Soon after that tournament in France, a doctor told Pavel that he should retire, and it now seems as though the Eastern European, who is down at No 1140 on the computer and only made it into the draw on a protected ranking, could have swung a racket for the last time.

His planned worldwide retirement tour could have just the one stop, and just half a match.

Murray, the bookmakers' favourite for the first major of the season, took the opening set 6-2, and held a 3-1 lead in the second set when Pavel put a dismal backhand halfway up the net and told the umpire and Murray that he could not continue.

With temperatures at Melbourne Park moving past 40 degrees, the last thing that Murray would have wanted would to have been out in the heat for too long.

Even during the change of ends, when Murray was shaded under an umbrella, there was little respite. "I guess if you want to do well in the tournament, it's good to conserve some energy," said Murray.

On Thursday, Murray will play Marcel Granollers, a Spaniard who was out there for more than three hours in beating Russian Teimuraz Gabashvili in four sets, going through 6-4, 7-6, 4-6, 6-0.

Granollers, a 22-year-old ranked 51 in the world, was in the Spanish Davis Cup team that won the salad bowl-shaped trophy, 'La Ensaladera', last season, but he never made it on court in Mar del Plata against Argentina.

Granollers would have been running across Court 10 for even longer if Gabashvili had not melted away in the fourth set, including hitting a double-fault at match point down.

Murray has played Granollers once before, beating the Spaniard at the clay-court tournament in Barcelona during the 2006 season.

On the Rod Laver Arena, Pavel's tennis in the early stages had not been too shabby, as he had showed good touch with his volleys and a couple of drop-shots.

In the first few games, the Romanian's problems seemed to be the sun in his eyes - he struggled with his ball-toss - and the fact that he stepped over the baseline on a number of occasions and was called for foot-faulting.

Murray, who lost his opening match of the 2008 tournament to France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, even appeared to be a little nervous for the first match of the day.

But Pavel first gave notice that his back was causing him real discomfort when, at the conclusion of the first set, he asked for the trainer to come on court to apply some 'hot cream'.

Pavel completed just four more games before bringing his Australian Open, and most probably his career, to an unfortunate end.

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Old 01-22-2009, 08:28 AM   #200
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http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/t...t-1463309.html

Murray insists becoming world No 1 can wait



GETTY IMAGES
Murray has been receiving a lot of media attention in Australia



By Emma Stoney, PA
Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Winning a grand slam is top of Andy Murray's priority list this year, being number one in the world can wait.

Murray has yet to win one of tennis' major championships. The closest he has come is runner-up to Roger Federer in last year's US Open.

But the 21-year-old Scot has entered the Australian Open with high hopes of breaking his duck, and giving British tennis fans something to talk about other than Fred Perry's last successes in 1936.

Murray has been in hot form in the build-up to the first grand slam of the year in Melbourne, defeating Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer (twice) and Andy Roddick as he secured wins in Abu Dhabi and Doha.

Add in the five ATP titles he won last year and there is little surprise people are starting to talk about grand slams and number one rankings.

"I'd obviously love to be number one. I'm sure all players would at some point in their career," the world number four said as he prepared for his second-round clash with Marcel Granollers tomorrow (beginning at 9:30am GMT).

"But I'd want to try and win a slam first. I think that's the next step for me."

It will take some doing to oust Nadal from the top spot. Having waited 237 weeks for Federer to falter, it is not a position the Majorcan is going to give up lightly.

But Murray acknowledges it is not beyond the realms of possibility.

"If I play well the first six months of this year, I don't have a whole lot of points to defend, so there's a chance that I'd do it.

"I'm going to have to play (the first half of the year) like I did for the second part of the year last year and try and be very consistent." Interest in the Scot has been high in Melbourne after he was handed the favourite's tag alongside Federer prior to the tournament beginning.

That came as a surprise to Federer and Australian Lleyton Hewitt, while defending champion Novak Djokovic seems also to be unimpressed.

"All the respect to Andy, I like him as a person and as a player. He's done a lot in the last couple months, and he's a very talented player and we can expect him to win some grand slams in the future.

"But you cannot put him as the favourite next to Roger and Rafa and myself here at the Australian Open."

The attention surrounding Murray is something he is used to dealing with each time Wimbledon rolls around, but it is a new experience on the other side of the world.

"Obviously the support I get at Wimbledon is awesome but this is the first time I've been to a grand slam outside of Wimbledon where I've had a lot of media attention."

It doesn't appear to have affected the 21-year-old so far either.

"I doesn't really make a huge difference once you start the tournament," he said.

"I don't think it's a terrible thing (being centre of attention). With people talking about you there comes an extra bit of pressure but sometimes it's good.

"The other players are expecting you to do well, so they maybe go on the court with a bit more respect for you.

"Maybe if they come close to winning sets or matches against you they can get a bit nervous. So I think it works in a few ways."

Murray has seen little action so far in the tournament after his opponent Andrei Pavel retired hurt in their first-round match on Tuesday.

Because he only had a 45-minute work-out on Rod Laver Arena then, Murray planned an extended practice prior to his second-round date with Spaniard Granollers.

The pair have met once before on the ATP Tour, in 2006 where Murray won 4-6 6-4 6-2 on the clay of Barcelona.

Granollers, ranked 51 in the world, comes into this match having taken over three hours in sweltering conditions to beat Teimuraz Gabashvili 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 4-6 6-0, which may work to Murray's advantage.
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Old 01-22-2009, 02:21 PM   #201
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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/ten...ird-round.html

Andy Murray eases into Australian Open third round

The road that runs between Melbourne Park and the Yarra River is called Batman Avenue, and, during a practice session the other day, Andy Murray amused the locals inside the tennis complex by flexing his shoulder muscles as an impression of the Incredible Hulk.

By Mark Hodgkinson in Melbourne
Last Updated: 2:55PM GMT 22 Jan 2009




On top down under: Andy Murray beat Marcel Granollers to reach the third round
of the Australian Open in Melbourne. Photo: GETTY IMAGES


Still, Murray has not exactly had to play like a superhero to make the third round of the Australian Open. Fair enough - what's the point of playing like Superman when you can go through as Clark Kent? So far, the cape has remained unused in Murray's kit-bag.

Murray has done what he has had to do, and was clearly playing within himself during a late-night match on the Rod Laver Arena as he beat Marcel Granollers, a Spaniard ranked 51 in the world. Straight sets, pretty straightforward.

While a few others have fried and frazzled on the Plexicushion hard courts on the way into the last 32, Murray has taken the deodorised route, with this 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 victory finishing just after midnight local time, so several hours after the muggy heat of the day had cleared away.

In fact, it was even a little chilly out there. And this routine win over Granollers followed his half-completed first-round match, an appearance that lasted for only 45 minutes as his opponent, Romania's Andrei Pavel, had retired with a bad back.

Murray's progress to the third round of this slam has cost him just 11 games in all. But perhaps he will have to work a little harder in his next round against Jurgen Melzer, a left-handed Austrian - maybe that will be the occasion when he will first have to reach for the cape.

The debate over whether Murray should be the bookmakers' favourite has been exercising the minds of the tennis world - such is the fervour with which this is discussed by some people around Melbourne Park, to the exclusion of almost everything else, you would think that they had never heard of Barack Obama or the world financial crisis. But it is difficult for anyone to make an accurate judgement of the world No 4's Aussie Open chances after a couple of easy wins like this.

When a match is played at night under the lights of the Rod Laver Arena, it tends to add a little something extra. A small Heineken-fuelled group took to shouting out "freedom", which was presumably a reference to the rallying cry made by Mel Gibson in 'Braveheart'.

Others called out in support for "Muzza". At times, the spectators were making their own entertainment.

Granollers showed he was capable of striking the ball with considerable power, but he did not have the consistency or the repertoire to challenge the Briton.

Murray is likely to have more to do against Melzer, who came through in four sets against Andreas Beck, a German qualifier. Melzer and Murray met in the third round of last season's US Open, with the Austrian coming within two points of victory - how different the story of the 2008 US Open would have been if the 27-year-old had managed to close out his win.

Just before last season's Davis Cup tie at Wimbledon, Melzer suggested that Murray would feel the pressure when playing in front of the British tennis public, and it was a remark that the Scot didn't take kindly to.

One of the most upsetting remarks you can make about a professional tennis player is to call them a choker, and Murray wasn't going to let Melzer's comment pass without a response.

In fact, Murray had three responses to Melzer's comment, two of them verbal and the other one a gesture - he marked one of his singles victories over that weekend by putting his hand to his throat and pretending to choke.

Murray was mocking Melzer, telling him that he was in no need of the Heimlich manoeuvre. But it sounds as though the two of them have laughed about it since then. This will not be a grudge match.
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Old 01-25-2009, 04:46 AM   #202
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http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/tennis/7849606.stm

Page last updated at 04:46 GMT, Sunday, 25 January 2009

Murray aims to out-think Verdasco



Murray has won all five previous meetings with Verdasco

British number one Andy Murray says he will need to keep his wits about him when he faces 14th seed Fernando Verdasco at the the Australian Open.

Murray will be last on the Hisense Arena against the Spaniard on Monday with a quarter-final place at stake.

"It's very important to use my head," said the Scot, seeded fourth.

"I need to make him do a lot of thinking and moving. If I play like I did against Jurgen Melzer, I can definitely win that one."

The tie will take place in the early hours of Monday morning UK time, once three women's singles matches have taken place.

Murray, 21, defeated Austrian 31st seed Melzer in straight sets to book the fourth-round tie with 25-year-old left-hander Verdasco.

The Spaniard has been defeated in all five top-level meetings between the two, including three hard-court victories for Murray in 2008.

"I have a very good record against left-handers," said Murray. "The only one I've lost to on the tour has been Rafael Nadal."

Murray cautioned that while his form leading up to this point suggests he can challenge for a first Grand Slam title, he was expecting to be tested by Verdasco.

"The matches are obviously going to get tougher. Verdasco has been playing well so far in the tournament," he said.

"You know, I'm sure one match in a Slam, if you want to go deep, maybe you're not playing your best tennis, you have to try and find a way through to win.

"I hope it doesn't happen, but if it does, I need to be prepared to try and win a match when I'm not playing my best tennis."
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Old 01-25-2009, 04:54 AM   #203
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http://sport.scotsman.com/tennis/Mur...ork.4910955.jp

Murray finds his New York state of mind

Published Date: 25 January 2009
By ALIX RAMSAY
IN MELBOURNE




That winning feeling: Andy Murray celebrates victory

THERE is something eerily familiar about Andy Murray's first week at the Australian Open. For the second consecutive Grand Slam, he has had a quiet opening few rounds; for the second consecutive Grand Slam, he has beaten Jürgen Melzer in the third round and on the middle Saturday; for the second consecutive Grand Slam he could meet Rafael Nadal in the semi-final and Roger Federer in the final.
The only slight concern for Scotland's finest is the slight cold he picked up a couple of days ago. It is not full-blown flu, in fact it is not even man-flu, but Murray felt decidedly rough after his second-round match against Marcel Granollers and spent most of Friday in bed popping paracetamol tablets and taking it easy. Nothing was going to stop him from playing and never did he think that a bug was going to stop him from winning but he still sought advice from the tournament doctor just to be on the safe side.

"I didn't feel terrible," he said, "but I knew that I was going to have to make sure that I didn't do a whole lot yesterday and take all the medication I can. With sort of flu and sort of sickness and stuff, it does comes down a lot, mentally, that if you think you're going to get better then you will.

"On Friday, I was meant to practise at 12pm and ended up going at 5.30pm to just hit for 45 minutes or so. But I felt much better today. I've got a bit of a cough but I'll take some more medication tonight."

Melzer certainly did not notice that Murray was suffering in any way at all. The Austrian came within two points of beating Murray at the US Open but yesterday he was thrashed fair and square 7-5, 6-0, 6-3. So heavy was the beating that he admitted to the Scot later that he had no idea how to win a point in the second set.

As he had in his previous two matches here, Murray looked a little edgy in the fist set but as soon as he had won that by breaking the Austrian in the final game, he took off.

Cold or no cold, Murray looked again like the man who had beaten Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal earlier in the month and like the man who had picked up the title in Doha on his way to Melbourne. Murray was aggressive, he was in complete control and he won 14 of the last 17 games including a sequence of 11 consecutive games to close out the first set, hoover up the second and take a 3-0 lead in the third. He made just 10 unforced errors in the whole match.

"Tonight was the best match of the tournament," he said, "and I played some of my best tennis. With each match I'm feeling more comfortable."

The only difference between this event and last year's US Open is that this time Murray has only dropped 19 games on his way to the fourth round – last time he had shed three sets to get this far – and with each round he is looking more relaxed, more assured and more settled in his role as a title contender.

In New York, the whole experience of getting to a major final was new but now Murray knows what to expect if he goes deep into the tournament. The thought of the workload ahead of him may have been a little daunting as he first unpacked his bags here, but the knowledge he gained on his run in New York – the main nugget of information being that he knows how to do this now – has given him a new confidence. And he was hardly lacking in self belief in the first place.

"The one thing I've got better at over the last few years is just treating each match as another tennis match," he said. "If you put so much emphasis on it being a grand slam, what round it is, whether it's first or second week then you sort of lose focus of what you're trying to do.

"I just think that because in the past I've lost a few first rounds in slams and stuff, you have to go in and give a lot of respect to your opponents and so from the start I was very switched on even for my first match.

"A grand slam is much longer than a regular tournament but I think because of the experience I had at the US Open, I'm better equipped to deal with that now and I hope that I keep the sort of form that I had tonight going into next week because I'm going to need it."

Tomorrow Murray will play Fernando Verdasco in the battle of the biceps. Just as the Scot has proudly shown off the results of his gruelling training regime, so Verdasco is the reaping the rewards of two weeks spent training with Gil Reyes over Christmas. Reyes worked with Andre Agassi through most of the American's career, helping to bring him back from a world ranking of 141 to the No1 position and turning him into a serial Grand Slam title winner.

"Right now I think I'm feeling physically and mentally stronger than last year in Wimbledon," Verdasco said. "This pre-season for me, it was a really, really big change. I think I was improving a lot in these two weeks I was with Gil Reyes in Las Vegas. I think I realise much more how I can play and how I can be harder player for the other players."

Verdasco is, like Melzer, another left-hander, but that holds no fear for Murray. He grew up playing against his brother, Jamie, who plays left handed, so the lefty serve poses no problems for him. He has won 21 of 26 matches against such players, and the only left-hander ever to beat Murray is Nadal. History, too, does not favour Verdasco as in five previous meetings he has taken only one set from Murray.

As the second week dawns, Melbourne is suddenly beginning to look very much like New York.
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Old 01-26-2009, 10:50 AM   #204
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http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/t...a-1515947.html

Verdasco eliminates Murray in Australia

By Paul Newman in Melbourne
Monday, 26 January 2009


REUTERS/Darren Whiteside
Andy Murray reacts as he heads for defeat against Spain's Fernando Verdasco
at the Australian Open tennis tournament



A Spanish left-hander was always likely to offer one of the biggest threats to Andy Murray's chances of winning the Australian Open but the Scot is unlikely to have imagined his name would be Fernando Verdasaco.

Murray had beaten Rafael Nadal's fellow countryman in all five of their previous meetings, but the 25-year-old from Madrid finally got the better of him in the fourth round here today. In the biggest surprise of the tournament so far, Verdasco won 2-6, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 after a match of rapidly changing fortunes that lasted three hours and 12 minutes.

Verdasco played one of the best matches of his life and served with remarkable power and consistency, while Murray's performance was a curious mixture. There were times when the world No 4 justified his status as the pre-tournament favourite, but at others he looked sluggish and out of sorts. After the match Murray refused to blame the sore throat he had been suffering since his second-round win over Marcel Granollers, but he never looked at the height of his physical powers. "He served huge," Murray said. "Sometimes you've just got to say: 'Too good.' He played better than me."

If Murray had gained confidence through his physical work in Florida over the winter, Verdasco has also benefited from his off-season training in Las Vegas with Gil Reyes, who used to work with Andre Agassi. In particular the Spaniard looked the stronger of the two players in a hard-fought final set. Murray has an excellent record in five-set matches, having won five in a row since his last defeat when going the distance, to Nadal in the fourth round here two years.

In his five previous meetings with Verdasco Murray had dropped only one set, but the hard-hitting Spaniard has been in a fine run of form recently. In particular he appears to have gained in confidence since helping his country to their historic Davis Cup victory in Argentina last month, when he clinched the trophy by beating Jose Acasuso in the fourth rubber from two sets to one down.

Verdasco reached the final in Brisbane in his only competition in the build-up to Melbourne. Here he had dropped just 12 games in his first three matches, the fewest by any player in the first three rounds of the tournament in the professional era.

Murray said afterwards: "I'm disappointed that I lost, but I'll try and learn from it. There are more important things than a tennis match. I want to win every one that I play, but I'm not going to get down about it. I worked very hard in the off-season. It's been a good start to the year. I'll try and learn from it and hopefully come back a better player."

In the first set everything seemed to be straightforward for Murray. The Scot won it with two breaks of serve, converting his first two break points by punishing a poor Verdasco volley in the third game and hitting a big forehand winner down the line in the seventh. If the 21-year-old Scot was showing little of the attacking panache with which he had destroyed Jurgen Melzer in the previous round, his play was steady enough to draw a sufficient number of mistakes from Verdasco's racket.

The Spaniard, nevertheless, had break points in Murray's last three service games in the first set and the tide quickly turned in the second. Verdasco raced into a 3-0 lead and then won a marathon fourth game, breaking Murray for the second time in a row after eight deuces. Even after he had played a sloppy game at 4-0, handing Murray a break with four unforced errors, the world No 15 quickly regained the initiative with his third break in succession to lead 5-1. Verdasco served out to love to level the match after an hour and 18 minutes.

Murray had been looking increasingly lethargic and unhappy, but, without warning, the momentum shifted again at the start of the third set. Having held his serve comfortably for the first time since the second game of the match, the Scot broke serve to lead 2-0 and celebrated with a huge cry of "Come on!" Another break in the sixth game helped Murray to take the set 6-1.

Once again, however, everything changed in the following set. Verdasco went into a 3-0 lead, dropping only three points along the way, and although the rest of the set was tight he served out to take the match into a decider.

The final set, at last, saw both players hit form at the same time. The crowd, sensing Murray's problems, got behind the Scot and in the first five games he looked the more comfortable on his own serve. In a tense sixth game he had two break points, but Verdasco held his nerve and served his way out of trouble.

The effort seemed to take its toll on Murray, who played some tired-looking shots as Verdasco broke in the following game to take a 4-3 lead. When the Spaniard served for the set he went 40-0 up. Murray saved two match points, but on the third his return of serve went into the net.

"I don't know if I'll be the favorite for a Slam in the next year or so after today, but it doesn't really bother me," Murray said as he reflected on his defeat. "I play the match. If I'm the favourite to win, whatever, I play the same as I am when I'm the underdog. I try my best to win. I think I give 100 per cent in all my matches. If I lose, I lose. If I win, I win."
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Old 01-28-2009, 08:35 PM   #205
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http://sport.scotsman.com/tennis/Mur...bts.4915066.jp

Murray justifies Federer doubts

Published Date: 27 January 2009
By ALAN PATTULLO

THE notion that Roger Federer is somehow running scared of Andy Murray was left exposed to ridicule in the heat of a Melbourne evening yesterday.
The Swiss champion's surprised reaction to the news that Murray had been installed as a favourite was regarded as churlish in some quarters. In others, though, it was interpreted as clear evidence of the mind games that many like to imagine sports stars obsess over, anxious to obtain whatever advantage they can. Federer, they claimed, was an insecure mess, raging against the dying of a light, and fretting at the fact someone who had beaten him on four previous occasions had also asserted his authority in the betting market.

While Federer probably knew exactly what he was saying, it was not a last act of a desperate man. He had every right to question the sanity of those placing bets on Murray to win – and if it helped his own circumstances, then so much the better.

In fact Federer's response was exactly that expected of a champion, and contained something of Sir Alex Ferguson's faux bemusement when having drawn Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez into his web recently. "He's disturbed," was Ferguson's withering comment, after Benitez had rattled on about the Manchester United manager's methods during a press conference. A haughty, almost dismissive tone, was apparent in Federer's own response when asked about Murray's status as bookies' favourite on the eve of the Australian Open. 'They're disturbed' was the gist of his retort, with reference to those lured into thinking they might cash in on the Scot's recent run of good form.

The Swiss player's startled reaction perhaps helped set the doubts racing in Murray's mind, and he came to an undistinguished end against the hardly stellar Fernando Verdasco. Murray is the only top eight seed to fail to reach the quarter-finals in Melbourne this year.

"He's the favourite?" asked Federer. It is nice to think an eyebrow had also arched quizzically, as he stroked the US Open trophy on his lap. He is, after all, the most recent Grand Slam winner, having rather easily dispatched Murray in the final at Flushing Meadow in September. That was all he needed to bear in mind, although he could also have asked for a further 12 titles to be taken into consideration. Federer is a serial Grand Slam victor and at 27 years old is wise enough to know how to increase the pressure on his rivals.

He went on to point out that being the bookies' favourite won't help the Scot, and so it proved. No amount of wagers can help when Murray, as he pointed out yesterday, is simply outplayed by the better player on the day. Further explaining Federer's puzzlement, even irritation, at Murray's strength of backing – he wasn't, after all, No 1 seed, which is still what matters – is a fragility which the Scot can't quite shake off, no matter how many photographs of his muscle-bound upper torso are flashed around the world.

Murray should have won yesterday's fourth-round meeting with his Spanish opponent at a canter if we are to believe those who make such premature claims of greatness on his behalf. But the Scot was out-thought and out-fought, and waned at the end of a five-set encounter. Federer, meanwhile, roared back from two sets down to beat Tomas Berdych at the weekend.

Those who placed wagers on Murray might wish to employ a little more circumspection before the next Grand Slam, at Roland Garros in May. Murray has only reached the quarter-final stage twice in 13 grand slams, a statistic which suggest Federer was within his rights to be taken aback by the news of Murray's popularity in the streets. He wasn't alone. Another with reason to feel slightly put out was defending Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic. Even his apparent friendship with Murray could not prevent him sounding aghast at news of the growing belief that Murray was set to win his first Grand Slam title at the expense of those who had earned the right to be ranked ahead of him. "I like him as a person and as a player," said the Serb. "He's done a lot in the last couple of months, and he's a very talented player who we can expect to win some Grand Slams in the future. But you cannot put him as one of the favourites next to Roger and Rafa and myself here at the Australian Open."

It wasn't so much a mind game as a simple statement of fact, but it might have planted more seeds of uncertainty in Murray's head. Here were two of his most obvious challengers scoffing at the notion he was about to tame them. Rafa Nadal was conspicuous by his silence on the subject, but his opinion is unlikely to have differed much from that of Federer and Djokovic. He might also have fought to conceal a smirk yesterday when Murray's claim to be a great pretender wilted in the heat. The Scot's day in the sun will come – just not yet. And not while Federer et al prove themselves to be such wily customers.


ANALYSIS

• CONCENTRATION

One of the major improvements in Murray's game in the past year, but against Verdasco he was fractious and distracted. Obsessed by the number of challenges being made by his opponent, he appeared to be using his own challenges out of pique rather than perspicacity.

• PASSIVITY

Murray's recent success has been built on aggression and imposing himself on his opponents. Against Verdasco, he was like the Murray of old – too defensive and too willing to absorb pace and power. When he did attack, he lacked accuracy and patience.

• SERVE

Murray's first serve is a much-improved weapon but his second serve can still be vulnerable.

He could not always rely on the first serve thunderbolt to dig him out of trouble and the second delivery let him down in key moments.


Scot has history of wilting under burden of expectation

ANDY Murray's unexpected defeat to Fernando Verdasco at the Australian Open is not the first time he has failed as an odds-on favourite. While the Scot has become a far more consistent player in the past year, and has worked hard on improving his physical power, his career record nevertheless contains a string of disappointing reverses. Here is a sample of his previous high-profile losses . . .

• Australian Open 2006

Juan-Ignacio Chela


A catalogue of unforced errors cost Murray dear against the Argentine as he went out in the first round 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 in under two hours.

• Wimbledon 2006

Marcos Baghdatis


"I didn't feel good the whole match," said the then 19-year-old Murray after failing to build on his impressive win over Andy Roddick two days earlier. He was 4-1 up in the second set, but lost five games on the spin. A tiebreak in the third set sealed his fate on Centre Court.

• US Open 2007

Lee Hyung-Taik


After a five-set first-round win over Jonas Bjorkman, Murray ran out of puff against the South Korean, 11 years his senior. "Normally I would be the one making the big shots, but he was the one coming up with them. I just have to deal with it, you have to sometimes," said Murray afterwards.

• Kremlin Cup 2007

Janko Tipsarevic


The Scot failed to muster a single break point in an abject performance against the world No 68 in the last 16 in Moscow.

• Australian Open 2008

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga


The unheralded Frenchman, then ranked 38th, shocked Murray in the first round, but the result was put in context when Tsonga went all the way to the final in Melbourne. "You can come away from matches feeling less disappointed if you've given it everything you've got," said the Scot philosophically.

• French Open 2008

Nicolas Almagro


The Spanish claycourt specialist fired 21 aces and 64 winners as he outplayed the Scot in the third round. "I knew he had a big serve, but he served very, very well today," admitted a magnanimous Murray.

• Olympics 2008

Lu Yen-Hsun


The world No 74 from Chinese Taipei caused a major upset by dumping Murray out in the first round, days after he had beaten Novak Djokovic to win the Cincinnati Masters. Murray did quickly bounce back from his setback in Beijing, however, with a memorable run all the way to the final of the US Open, where he lost to Roger Federer.
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Old 02-05-2009, 09:13 PM   #206
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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/ten...d-Big-Two.html

Andy Murray still lags behind 'Big Two'

By Kevin Garside
Last Updated: 8:42AM GMT 03 Feb 2009



Federer had the Harmison radar on his rackethead for much of the Australian Open final.

Had that been the case at the US Open last September, Murray might have been a grand slam champion by now.

At least that is the view through the British looking glass. The counter argument put by the rest of the world points out that Federer's serving accuracy in Melbourne was to a significant degree conditioned by the player opposing him. Rafael Nadal fills far more space in Federer's head than Murray, they say.

Murray was the betting favourite for the Australian Open. Victories over Federer in the weeks leading up to Melbourne were persuasive. He started the tournament well enough, ripping through sundry bystanders before meeting with a random variable from Madrid.

Murray can draw some comfort from the hoops through which Fernando Verdasco had Nadal jumping in the event's outstanding match. Murray had never lost to Verdasco and managed to push him around the court in a way Nadal never quite managed in that razor-edged semi-final, yet Nadal prevailed. Murray did not.

With defending Australian champion Novak Djokovic laying down his racket mid-match for the fourth time in his career, this time because of the heat, the big four ultimately reduced to the bigger two.

The Nadal-Federer rivalry accurately reflects the distribution of power in the men's game. It is two plus two rather than the front four the tournament marketing men would have us believe. Djokovic is able, like Murray, to penetrate the power bubble when circumstances permit. The problem for both is that Nadal and Federer are the principal determinants that influence events. They do not require a break to let them in. They make their own luck.

The tour moves on to the European indoor season this month before re-emerging into the sun for the hard-court thrash around the United States in the spring. Murray might well bash out a Masters Series victory or two in this period yet when the names go into the hat for the French Open draw in the latter part of May, the seeding committee at Roland Garros will be joined by the majority in looking no further than Nadal and Federer to fill slots one and two.

Murray had made measurable steps since his return from injury last year, not least his four-set victory over Nadal in New York. The US Open was a grand slam too far for Nadal, after his double in Paris and London, demonstrating just how romantic talk of a calendar Grand Slam is in this age of power tennis.

Nevertheless, Murray crossed a mental threshold that day. It was his misfortune to meet Federer on the rebound and following the demise of his relationship with the prettiest pot in tennis. The Wimbledon trophy and Federer had been inseperable for five years until Nadal smacked his lips on it.

Federer was almost disappointed when Murray did the job in New York that he had set for himself and how he made him pay.

In the second week at Melbourne, Federer reproduced his US Open form before falling into Nadal's psychological vice. The opening service game that Federer divvied up to Nadal in Melbourne would not have been out of place in the women's final. Compare that to the turbulence he unleashed at Murray in New York. The argument comes full circle.

Until we can remove the lids of elite athletes to determine the workings of the sporting mind, we are left at best guesses to explain the power dynamic at the top of the game.

For now all Murray can do is keep winning while accepting that the players who matter most care least about victories posted outside the grand slam combat zone. Federer won't blink until Murray has done to him at a major championship what Nadal effected again in Melbourne.

Djokovic laughed when asked to comment on the pre-match betting in Australia; Federer, too. In the sporting jungle, the joke is still on Murray until he is smiling for the photographers on the second Sunday of a grand slam. At this point in the Scot's career, nothing else matters.


=============================================

There's something that bothers me in this article. Dunno, maybe it's the feeling of the pressure put on Andy... a kind of scorning attitude toward Andy's achievements of the past...
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Old 02-06-2009, 01:37 PM   #207
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Yeah it kind of seems like Andy will have done nothing in tennis unless he wins a Grand Slam which is a bit unfair. He's only been a pro a couple of years and he's already won just as many titles as Tim Henman so has to be the most successful British tennis player of all time. The media should concentrate on that and stop putting so much pressure on him to win a Slam and they might find when the pressure's off he'll win a slam
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Old 02-17-2009, 10:43 AM   #208
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Hey ,

Andy posted a new message on Twitter "whats happening? back on twitter. rested up today, after a massage from AI. played some PS golf, and just back from walking the dog. decent."
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Old 02-17-2009, 12:43 PM   #209
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Sounds like he's taking it easy, which is good
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Old 02-18-2009, 12:20 PM   #210
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another new Twitter Note
back down at ntc. alex corretja just stepped off the plane at heathrow and on his way in. he might miss tennis-football though..
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